Monday, October 31, 2011

Baby steps...

First and foremost, I am no longer suffering from barn brain!  We have approved and finished the plans for the barn.  Want to see?  The first link shows the outside elevations and the second link shows the floor plan.,

I am very excited about it.  In fact, whenever I'm over at the barn where Tia stays now, all I do while I'm cleaning is think about getting that new barn set up. 

The main question left to be answered is, WHERE WILL THE BARN BE LOCATED?  Our current site plan has it sitting partially on the foundation of the old metal garage that is currently on the property.  But, because that would have it sitting foward from the house (on the other side of the lot) we have to get a variance from the Zoning Board of Adjustment to put it there.  We hope our case is solid, because if we can't use that concrete pad then we will have to move the house forward (cut down 4 trees) or move the barn back (cut down 3 trees AND put down a new pad.)  Here's a link to the site plan:

Trees.  Tree.  That is a four letter word in my book right now.  I previously wrote about our issue with the "tree police."  Issue ongoing.  Citations issued.  LARGE sum of money involved.  Mayor and City Council involved.  Turns out that on AG properties you cannot just cut down what you want to or need to on your own land without getting the blessing of the tree powers that be.  Never mind that it is in the process of being rezoned.... We'll be trying to make our case that we had NO IDEA.  And we didn't!

Rain!  Now there's a good word.  We've had enough so that everything has greened back up!  No more going over at all hours to move the hose around so we can save the trees.  Oh, there's that word again.  The creek has plenty of water.... so at least the tires that are in there aren't visible right now.  Trying to look at the positive side.

Green grass... but we won't be living here!

The last bit of good news is that the "for sale" sign in front of our current house is coming down tomorrow.  I'm getting up right now to do a little dance...  yayayayayayay!   We came to our senses and realized that if we don't NEED to sell this house right now, there's really no point in doing it.  Why would we complicate life by moving into the little old house and having to store half of our stuff when we can just stay here until the other house is finished?  Seems like a no-brainer to me.  (I can use the excuse that I didn't think of this before since I had barn-brain.  That could count as no-brain.) 

Behind the scenes work is being done... the builder is applying for the building permit, the site is being re-platted, and we have started making selections.  Here is an example of the stone and window color we hope to use:
The roof is a little too grey, I think.

A good friend of mine introduced me to an addicting website... and I'm getting lots of ideas there.  If you haven't been to you are way behind the times!  Here are a couple of ideas that I really like:
Love this color combination--it's so fresh.  Unfortunately, it would require all new furniture...
These colors make me happy.  My mantra for this house is LIGHT and BRIGHT.

YES.  This is the color combination I want to do!
I want to do dark floors, beige walls and white trim.  Not everywhere, but as the basic scheme.

Pinned Image
Leaning toward antiqued white cabinets with a contrasting island.  Got to get Jim on board with this one!

Another other great website where I am getting ideas and keeping track of what I like is  Highly recommended if you like to look at house stuff!  And lastly, here's a great blog for beautiful home building inspiration:

Of course, I could literally spend all day (or all night if I can't sleep) on the computer looking at stuff... so I have to limit myself to a few minutes at a time.  Facebook?  Haven't been on in weeks!  Children?  Oh yes... I actually do have some... and I probably should get some dinner going and get the Halloween candy out!  Happy Halloween, Y'all!

Monday, October 10, 2011

The good and the bad...

I never know which to tell first... the good news or the bad news.  In this case, I'm not sure the good news outweighs the bad news, so it probably doesn't matter.

So, good news first:  THE CREEK IS FULL!  We got almost 2 inches of rain over the weekend and so the deep cracks in the earth are gone and the creek is running.  The rain was wonderful.

As you can see, plenty of water.  (You can also see that it's still a mess!  Because of the possible land swap with our neighbor we didn't have the tree guys do any work on the creek yet.  Turns out the neighbors don't seem to want to swap anymore which means a whole additional issue with fencing across the creek... but we'll cross that bridge a little later!)

I wanted to go out and see the creek during the rain but never had a chance.  I could tell where it had been at least a foot or two higher.  I wonder where our giant turtle is hanging out now. 

One creature that will no longer be hanging out at our property is this one:

Not sure what kind it is... I don't think it is poisonous... but the tree workers didn't take any chances.  Our resident hawks or some other scavenger had removed the evidence the next day. 

So, finding a snake on the property COULD be considered bad news, but not really.  That is to be expected.  If it had bit someone that would have been bad news.  The bad news is....

One of the people up the street called the city because of all the tree work going on.  You know, that's not exactly a quiet process, removing and chipping up tree branches.  So, the "tree police" came out and were not happy with the number and size of trees that had been removed from the perimeter of our property (without a permit.)  And they weren't happy with the dirt that had been dumped (without a permit.)  They posted a stop work order.  So now the tree work is at a standstill.  We own the property but we can't really do what we want to or need to on it without the city having a say. (It seems that they have lots of reasons to issue permits and collect the associated fees.)  I've been waiting for the "Landscape Administrator" (aka tree police) to call me today to find out where we go from here but he doesn't seem to be in a hurry to get back with me. 

Not sure how all of THIS is going to affect the current re-zoning issues, including trying to get the variance to allow us to have the barn set forward from the house.  Some of the neighbors have voiced some concern over the smell of the horses (a smell I happen to love) and the fact that their dogs may "go crazy."  All we can tell them at this point is that we will keep a very clean barn and we will do what we can to minimize the impact on the neighborhood.  I spent much of the weekend fretting and stewing at all hours of the day and night.  Today I'm just irritated.  Maybe that's progress!

Hopefully the next post will be all good news.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Progress report...

It has been awhile since I've had an update... things have been moving along S L O W L Y.  And if you know me, it is requiring a large dose of patience to deal with that!  Finally, this week, some more work is being done on the property. 

These are actually pretty boring pictures... taken with the camera on my phone... so sorry if you are yawning at this point!  The tree company (this is the third one... first one was too busy to finish our project, second one seemed to have some "shady" business dealings (no pun intended!) and so we have gone with this last company which has gotten down to business in a big way as you can tell from all the equipment they have brought in!)  Anyway, the tree company started Monday... clearing the perimeter of the lot of all "trash trees" and fallen logs, etc.  They seem to be doing a good job, other than being a little over-zealous and cutting down a few trees that were not on our property.  I'm waiting for the phone call about that...

It's amazing how the sound of trees coming down brings out the neighbors!  Our new friends across the creek were quizzing the tree guys about what we are doing and were very afraid that they are going to lose their privacy.  They may be interested in swapping property on our side of the creek for the part of ours that is on their side.  That would be great since it is a little difficult to fence across a creek, but that will take some time to sort out.  We also got a call from another bordering neighbor who wanted to make sure that we are not putting in a big, lighted tennis court.  Since I haven't played tennis since junior high, I assured her that we would not be.  She is thrilled that they will be able to look out over our pasture and see horses when all is said and done.  Very nice lady.

On the home building front, I have been bogged down with trying to sort out all of our rezoning issues.  Dealing with government (of any kind) can be such a trying experience!!!  It actually reduced me to tears the other day.  We were all set to move forward with a fairly straightforward zoning change from agricultural to single family acreage when the "city planner" noticed on our site plan that the barn is going to sit forward from the front of the house (even though it is way off to the side of the property.)  Apparently in city ordinance 33.4-f it states that no accessory building can be in the "front yard."  So now we have to file a variance and PROVE that it is a hardship and we need to receive a variance.  Well, considering a) the thousands of dollars associated with relocating it off the existing concrete pad and b) the need to remove and/or damage trees if we move it or the house anywhere else on the property it does seem like we have a hardship.  But now it will be up to the Zoning Board of Adjustment to make that determination.  If they decide no then we have to go back and rezone a different way.  My new specialty when all is said and done will be "jumping through hoops!"

Awhile back I wrote about "barn brain."  Still suffering, in case you're wondering.  We've gone back and forth and back and forth.  Once final decision is that we will not use the existing metal garage, just the concrete pad.  We have a final (hopefully) meeting with the architect this evening to finish up with the barn design.  I know they probably think I am just being picky... you know...the horse-crazy woman... but I've been in enough barns to know what I do and do not want.  Of course, I want it all!  But I AM trying to be reasonable!!  :-)  Here's to hoping that my mush for brains doesn't get me in trouble at the meeting....

Oh, yes. Almost forgot the last picture...

Here's our new dirt.  Thanks to some local swimming pool companies that are digging right now, we have about fifteen 5 ft high piles of dirt that will be used to level out the area for the house.  And it was FREE!!  Not sure how much more we need but at least it's a start.  Because of the rezoning we can't actually "break ground" until December.  Hopefully a few more pools will get dug by then and we'll be ready to hit the ground running.  Or I should say grading!  Bring on the earth movers already!

Monday, September 12, 2011


Facts about the drought in Texas:
  • This is the worst one-year drought on record
  • This summer was the hottest of any state's record going back to 1895
  • August was the hottest month in Texas history
  • Only 7.47 inches of rain has fallen this year
(taken from

Here's what it looks like at our place:

Yes, that is a 12-inch deep crack in the ground.

I will admit that I absolutely LOVE the sun.  I love warm weather and I don't mind hot weather.  The other day I found myself being thankful for a sunny day.  And then I realized I should actually be praying for rain.  I like thunderstorms (or at least I used to before our dog became deathly afraid of them) and I like rain showers.  I do not like day after day after day of gray skies and rainy weather.  That is why I live in Texas and not the Pacific Northwest!  HOWEVER, at this point I am willing to endure all of that to get some relief from the terrible drought we are having.  It is predicted that 10% of all the trees in the DFW area will die from the drought conditions within the next 2 years.  So we are watering, watering, watering all of our big oaks in hopes of saving them.

The ONE positive to having such dry conditions right now is that there is work that can be done!  On the back corner of our property, we have a creek.  Well, it used to be a creek.  Right now it is a ditch with some pools of pretty nasty water here and there.  Being optimistic that it will soon rain, we are in the process of getting all the debris cleaned out of the creek bed and thinning out the trees around it.

Yes, those are TIRES that the previous owners dumped in the creek.  We will also get to pay to have this large concrete chunk removed....

We look forward to the day when the creek is running again.  In the meantime, the work is progressing and we are praying for rain (as soon as the creek bed is cleared out!)

This week I'm off to the Planning and Zoning board to get the property properly zoned for building. (say that 3 times fast!)  For some reason it doesn't matter that there is already a house there... because it was zoned agriculture and not residential we can't build a new house on it until the zoning is changed.  EIGHT WEEKS??? I about fell out of my chair when the guy said it could take that long. What are the chances that about the time we can break ground the heavens open and we are inundated with rain? 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Random things, old and new

Things are progressing at the property slowly but surely.  We've been spending a lot of time pouring over the house plans making sure everything is in order.  Thankfully, Jim has a good eye for where all the plugs and light switches need to go.  I have barn brain.  It's basically mush for brains from trying over and over to figure out how to use an existing structure and cover it up with a new one to create a great home for Tia and a new pal.  We need the garage space AND horse space and I just need someone to put the plans in front of me without it costing a(nother) small fortune.

Other goings on: 

Old electric wires on the house

 We're having all the old electric poles (3 of them) taken down and the electric lines buried. 

Hello new electric box.  We hoped you would be
 underground, too.  Try not to get in the way too
much, okay?
We've found some "mystery mounds" around the property.  Here's one:

Upon further exploration we pulled out an old rotted
wood pallet and a smashed plastic paint bucket. 
We don't know if there is just more garbage or if it
might be an old well.  That and the other "mystery
mounds" are going to be excavated this week.

Some other old things:

 The old well.  Very scary.  This will have to be permanently capped or filled in.  I'm old enough to remember when a toddler got trapped in a well like this for 36 hours in the 1980's. 
In residence right now... EWW.

Another resident that will have to go:

Poison Ivy.  Bain of tree trimmers, Jim and Joe, so far.
Old things I want to find homes for:  The cow light switch in the old living room.  Joe's friend McKenzie wants it!  The living room light fixtures... love them.  Do 1960's light fixtures work in new homes?

So, the almost 5 acres of grass got mowed today.  The interior trees are trimmed.  The electricity is going down and under.  The tree guys will be back at work this week... I said to Jim, "shouldn't we get the tree guys to come and clean out the creek bed while it is still dry?  What if it rains and then we can't get all the junk out?"  He had already called them and set it up.  He is on top of more than just light switches and plugs, let me tell you!  I could never keep up with all of it.  My job is to work on getting the property rezoned so we can get our building permit... I think I'll just go draw up another barn idea first ....

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Little Old House: A real piece of work

This dear old house was built the same year that Jim was born and is two years older than the house I grew up in.  From the outside it is very cute! (if you don't look too closely.) 

I'll never forget the look on Jim's face when I suggested we live in it if our current house sells before the new one is built.  He really was speechless.  Now he has warmed to the idea.  Well, no that's not quite accurate (that would be the Texas blistering heat we have been experiencing.)  We have resigned ourselves to the idea of living in it should it become necessary.

At one point, we thought we might renovate it and use it as a guest house.  Our builder quickly helped us see the dollar signs that would be required since pretty much everything in the entire house would have to be replaced.  Starting with the roof, which happens to be uninsurable.  Yes, those color variations are buckles in the roof.  The areas that had daylight showing through had to be repaired as part of our purchasing contract, but the whole thing needs to be replaced.  Not a project we plan to do, thank goodness.  As long as the house stands around us until the other one is built then we're great!  And the longer it takes our current house to sell, the less time we get (have) to spend in the Little Old House.  So, as you might imagine, we want our house to sell.... but we are not crying in a bucket that it hasn't, yet.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Beautiful Giants: Trimming the trees

Front yard tree, untrimmed
One of the things that we love most about this property are the beautiful oak trees.  There are about 20 giant trees that are 4 to 5 feet in diameter and as much as 50 feet tall.  They have gone many years without any TLC and so getting them trimmed up and happy is a huge job.

The trees are home to at least two hawks that we regularly see flying over the property and.... they are also home to thick vines of poison ivy which has made trimming a real joy for the crew.
TALL!  Jim is 6'3" so this tree is at least 40'.

South side tree, FULL of poison ivy... sorry tree guys!
This is the front tree stand that will make up most of the landscaping for
the future front yard.

In addition to the two hawks, we have seen other wildlife, too.  The other night we saw a giant turtle down at the creek.  He (or she) was about 18 inches across the shell and not too happy to see us.  He/she slipped into the water as soon as we made some noise.  Also, one evening we saw two raccoons sneaking around the back of the lot.  Robert made sure they knew THEY were trespassing.  They did not look too happy, either.

So, with all these trees and wildlife, you might think that our land is quite AGRICULTURAL.  Turns out we've received an education about the difference between zoning agricultural (which means you can't build on it until it is rezoned by the city) and agricultural exemption (which means you pay lower taxes to the county because you are using the land for agricultural purposes.)  To our dismay, we found out that we are agriculturally ZONED but not EXEMPT.  Which means two things:  1)  we have to rezone the property to build on it and 2)  a very hefty property tax bill when all the house is built.... unless... we can plant and cut our own hay or find some other agricultural use for the land around the house.  Turns out it will have to be more than just a home for tall oak trees, horses, hawks, turtles and raccoons. (and poison ivy.)

Coming soon:  The little old house.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Barn Demolition: Leaving it to the experts

I decided that our builder wanted WAY TOO MUCH money to take down the barns on the property, so I took matters into my own hands.  No, I didn't pick up a sledge hammer... but I did get on Craigslist and found a local demolition company that is doing it for about $3000 less!  They started on Thursday and here is their progress:
All this junk and more came out of that little barn.

Here's one of the workers... I don't know how they stand the heat, but they do.

What was supposed to be a two-day job is now taking about four.  Jim found quite a few things to add on to their "to do" list, like taking down the barbed wire fence, pulling up two or three small concrete pads, hauling away all the hazardous materials the previous tenants left, etc etc.

As of Saturday night....
The red barn used to be here!

I found a few treasures amidst all the trash.  I hoped to find them good homes but Mr. Clean (also known as Jim) doesn't quite see their intrinsic worth.  "Dear, wouldn't that be the cutest chair to fix up..."  "NO," and so I hope our good workers will take them rather than just trash them.  (I think they will.)

The next thing to come down is the white metal shed.  Here's how it looks now:

The next thing on the list for this week is getting all the trees trimmed and trying to actually find the property line.  We attempted to hike through the forest to find the boundaries and one of us got poison something-or-other in the process.  The other project is getting the outside doors on the little old house replaced so that anyone off the street can't walk right in and make themselves comfortable.  Not that they would want to. 

Oh, and the builder's bid came in.  No comment.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Day ONE: The real fun begins

Today is our first full day of ownership of our new property:  5 acres hidden in the middle of our town.  There is an old house, built in 1963, (same year as Jim) that stands empty... waiting for us to paint, carpet and CLEAN in case we have to move into it.  Our current house is on the market and if it sells we will be downsizing for a few months.  (And my kids will see firsthand the type of house I grew up in!)

Although Jim and I both grew up in towns, we both enjoy the outdoors and animals, and we in the past have said, "wouldn't it be fun to have a small farm?"  I'm not really sure if HE was serious or just agreeing with me to be agreeable, but I'm so excited I can hardly stand it because now we have it!  I hope it will be fun.  Some of our offspring (isn't that a good farm term?) are less excited about the project than others.  At least they can get to civilization in less than 5 minutes and they can get there on four wheels instead of two or four legs!

There is more work to do than I can wrap my mind around but we are working with a great designer and builder to help us develop the property into something we can live on for the rest of our lives.  I'm dreaming of someday grandkids' camps and family reunions.  The type of place everyone wants to come home to.  I've already informed Jim that this is REALLY the last move for us.

I'm a very amateur photographer, so don't expect too much there, but I do enjoy writing.  With this blog, I hope to provide a commentary for my family and friends about the adventure of building our dream home from the ground up!